Growing your own food is easier than you think, even in windy and dry southeastern Wyoming, according to a tour of three local farms on Saturday.
About 50 people turned out for the Laramie Farm Tour, which took place on Saturday at the University of Wyoming ACRES Student Farm, Bright AgroTech and the Wyoming Worm Wranglers.
The UW Extension Office, Laramie LoCo Market and Laramie Local Foods sponsored the free tour.
Cole Ehmke, a UW Cooperative Extension educator and member of Laramie Local Foods, said the tour was organized to show the changing face or agriculture in southeastern Wyoming.
“Agriculture has been changing in the last few years around Laramie, and we’ve been seeing a real diversity in who is producing food, what they’re producing and where they’re producing it,” he said. “We’re showing Laramie that people are producing interesting things and they’re doing it right here in town.”
The farm tour began at 8:30 a.m. at the UW ACRES Student Farm, which is located at 30th and Harney.
About 50 people showed up for a tour of the student farm.
UW student and ACRES member Perry Baptista and Milt Geiger, the UW Cooperative Extension energy coordinator, led the tour of the farm’s gardens and collection of hoop houses, which are plastic greenhouses that extend the growing season well into the fall in Laramie.
From ACRES, the tour took the group to Bright AgroTech at 1425 Industry Drive, where Nate Storey practices aquaponics.
A sustainable food production system, aquaponics combines aquaculture (the raising of aquatic animals) with hydroponics (the cultivation of plants in water).
At Bright Argotetch, tilapia fish fertilize the plants that grow on rows of vertical plastic towers in the high-tunnel greenhouse.
The medium inside the plastic towers is air-spun fiber made out of recycled plastic bottles.
The final leg of the tour took the group to the Wyoming Worm Wranglers 598 N. Pierce.
Erika Babbit-Rogers led the group on a tour of the farm’s horse, chicken and egg, rabbit and worm operations.
Babbit-Rogers is most famous for her worms, which she grows in three worm beds full of cardboard, rotting food and other waste products inside a brick building on her property.
Several members of the group who spoke to the Boomerang on Saturday said they learned a lot from the tour.
“I think it’s fascinating what the university has accomplished here, because I can remember when this was just nothing,” Catherine O’Brien, an Albany County rancher, said. “Everything is growing so well. I’m really impressed. I had no idea they had this many greenhouses.”
Diana Shelton, an Albany County resident and gardener, said he is most impressed with the ACRES Student Farms’ novel ideas about growing food in a high-plains environment.
Shelton also said she is impressed with how much food ACRES can grow with such a high change-over rate of students each year.
“I go to the Farmer’s Market and I shop at Big Hollow (Food Co-op) and ACRES provides food at both places,” she said. “I’m impressed with the size of their tomato plants inside that hoop house.”
Laramie resident Bob Monteith expressed a lot of interest what is happening at Bright AgroTech.
“It’s a new and interesting concept,” he said of aquaponics. “I’m somewhat interested in how it can be taken upscale; it looks good for herbs and spices, but … it would be interesting to see how larger plants do in that environment.”
To learn more about the UW ACRES Student Farm, go to http://www.uwyo.edu/uwacres or call 766-5196.
For more information about Bright AgroTech, go to http://www.brightagrotech.com or call (308) 249-2301.
And more information about the Wyoming Worm Wranglers can be obtained by calling 760-6171.
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